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Brad Leithauser

Brad Leithauser is an American poet and novelist. A selection of his poems, Between Leaps, has just been published by Oxford.

Poem: ‘Later’

Brad Leithauser, 9 June 1994

The goal I suppose is a steadied mind – to replace with wood and stone and insulated wire what was contrived of flesh and bone, blood and blood’s desire;

isn’t the final end to find that haven where where you are matters as much to me as whether or not, on another block, the wind’s now rousing a tree?

Basically Evil

Brad Leithauser, 12 May 1994

From the outset, ambiguity enfolds The Plum in the Golden Vase, David Tod Roy’s translation of the first volume of the monumental 16th-century Chinese novel Chin P’ing Mei. The title, as he explains in his Introduction, is a ‘multiple pun’ composed of one ideogram each from the names of the three principal female protagonists. It translates literally as Gold Vase Plum. It also ‘puns with three near homophones that might be rendered as the Glamour of Entering the Vagina’. Racy the book certainly is. How one ought to respond to its raciness, however – specifically, to the sexual conquests of its insatiable hero, Hsi-men Ch’ing – remains, like so much else within its pages, open to question.’

Poem: ‘Another Dream’

Brad Leithauser, 7 October 1993

             Unreckonable,           the distance crossed to reach        the dark before this lighted ledge no      deeper than a bookshelf, holding a white beach    with two live finger-puppet figures...

Poem: ‘A Candle’

Brad Leithauser, 10 May 1990

According to your point of view, it stands for love – or hell posed starkly. I’m thinking of the single fellow who cowers darkly, as though with shame, there at the blue-yellow centre of the flame.

Poem: ‘Peninsular’

Brad Leithauser, 7 December 1989

Impulse alone, indicating what might be called a byway off a detour’s detour, led me suddenly to stop the car, rented in Reykjavik the week before,

zip my parka tight to the chin, and, bare hands balled in its pockets, strike off briskly, as though by plan, toward a rough- angled, distant shoreline. Now if

one were assembling, as I guess I was, some sort of file entitled Uninviting...

Poem: ‘A Night Dive’

Brad Leithauser, 2 February 1989

  It feels so much Like waking, this Rising after Forty minutes Under forty Feet of water; And to fill your Life-vest, breath by Breath, while floating Nearer a moon Mounted just high Enough to have Lost all trace of Gold and have turned A cool silver Is seemingly To come at once Greatly before The drawing source Of every blood-   Tide sleeplessness.

  For where,...

Poem: ‘A Bowl of Chinese Fireworks’

Brad Leithauser, 27 October 1988

Late afternoon light, and such a pretty touch – the way the sun, slow- wheeling down the wall in a fall of white on white, clear into gold explodes just upon reaching the bowl of elaborate, illicit fireworks reserved for this evening’s party.

Not until the night has grown into its own at last, drinks downed, dinner in all its courses done, and the guests, trailing bright...

Broadening Ocean

Brad Leithauser, 3 March 1988

Two poets, writing in nearly the same language (British English, American English) and born at nearly the same time (1952, 1951). One, Andrew Motion, is quite well-known in this country, though an unfamiliar name to most readers of verse in America. The other, Nicholas Christopher, is one of the most celebrated of America’s younger poets but – I suspect – an unknown figure in England, at least as a poet (his novel, The Soloist, was published by Pan last year). In each case, this disparity in reputation – this failure, or at least delay, in the gaining of a transatlantic reputation – would seem, on the face of it, rather mysterious, since each is an accessible and rewarding writer. Any explanation of the mystery probably must begin with the distressing lack of literary interchange between the two countries at present – a lack far more pronounced with poetry than with fiction. Two poets, then, sharing language, youth, and a broadening ocean.’

Narrow Places

Brad Leithauser, 15 October 1987

In ‘Barn Roof’, one of her earliest poems, Molly Holden speaks of ‘quarried colours’. The phrase says much about both her artistic ambitions, which strove endlessly after fresh visual detail, and her poetic methods, which often relied upon boldly proximate alliteration and what might be called off-off-rhyme. In the best of her poems, many of which were written at the outset of her career, a keen eye for the natural world conjoins with an ear subtly attuned to internal modulations; her most interesting aural effects often arise not in her end-rhymes but within the individual line. ‘Barn Roof’ also gives us the phrase, ‘runnels of rain-stains sustaining the decorative features …’ That daring near-stammer of ‘stains sustaining’ strikes the sort of clangorous note one might expect to find in a poem that strives after grandeur; one of the pleasures of Holden’s work is the incongruous way in which she brings a dense, brazen music to poems that might well be described as miniatures.

Ashamed of the Planet

Ian Hamilton, 2 March 2000

In April 1965, Randall Jarrell’s just published book of verse, The Lost World, was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review by Joseph Bennett. Bennett quite liked four of the poems but...

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Paradise Lost

Nicholas Everett, 11 July 1991

During the 18th and 19th centuries verse surrendered its longer discursive and narrative forms to prose and confined itself more and more to the short lyric and the sequence of short lyrics. Much...

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Every three years

Blake Morrison, 3 March 1988

Now that poetry has been brought into the marketplace, and publishers have discovered how to make a modest profit from it, and now that publication outlets can be found in any good-sized store,...

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